PC REVIEW: SWAT 4: THE STETCHKOV SYNDICATE

SWAT 4: The Stetchkov Syndicate subscribes to the axiom: Always leave them wanting more. The game is great but it's too damn short. I want more, more, more I tells ya'…. by Cole Smith

March 7, 2006 - The Stetchkov Syndicate is an expansion pack. You will require a copy of the original SWAT 4 and if you haven't already played it, you're in for a treat. I highly recommend both of these titles if you like a sophisticated shooter that requires more than just trigger twitching reflexes. Those that have already played SWAT 4 can look forward to new situations, new weapons and new unpredictable madmen. This is a great example of a great expansion pack. It doesn't take the series in any new direction but it gives us more of what made the original so good.

You are the leader of a five-man elite, tactical squad. Your missions range from hostage rescuing to bomb disarming. In all of the missions you will face dangerous and unpredictable suspects. They are more intelligent, realistic and volatile than ever. Armed with various weapons they will use them when cornered forcing you to be more cautious. As a member of SWAT your prime directive is to save lives. Not only those of the victim but those of the suspects as well. You can't just bust into a room and start running and gunning. All missions have to be clearly thought out beforehand. Fortunately the gameplay is not tightly scripted so the missions won't be exactly the same when you replay them.

Suspects will not only fight to the death, they may try to escape. When faced with a room with several doors and windows you may have to issue commands to your other members to cover as many exit areas as possible. Your teammates will be divided into two groups of two that you can choose to split up or act as one unit. Blueprints of the various buildings will be made available so that you can see where the possible escape routes are located and take preventative measures such as using gadgets like the door wedges to keep specific doors inaccessible and forcing the suspect into specific rooms or corridors.

Other gadgets include night vision goggles to see in low light, light sticks to place in the front of rooms to alert other players that you've already checked them out, fiber optic lenses to see around corners and under doors, stun grenades to surprise suspects, and pepper balls to incapacitate suspects. Another new addition is the stun gun. It's similar to the tazer but it's got a much longer range and fires multiple shots. It's a great way to take down a suspect without killing him.

These gadgets work great and they are always fun to use. I try to use as many as I can during missions which not only greatly increases my chances of a successful mission, but I also manage to wring maximum fun out of the game. When assessing a situation you can give orders in advance to your squad members that can be executed later when you give the command. It's a time saver and a real life saver.

It's good to be prepared but you don't want to get anal about it. There are situations in which you will have to make split-second decisions which all the prep work in the world wouldn't help you. It's these unpredictable moments which really make the game shine. It's not like you're playing against the AI, it's as though you're actually matching wits with a real criminal mind.

You will encounter situations where bystanders pose a threat to your safety and the safety of others. In the last game you had to actually shoot them in the leg or arm to incapacitate them if they would not comply but you run the risk of killing them if their health is low. In The Stetchkov Syndicate, you can punch their lights out instead. It feels great to have this extra bit of control especially when you run out of ammo for your other non-lethal weapons. Once they've been knocked out you can put them in restraints and get them safely out of the way.

Weapons such as a submachine gun, Colt rifle and grenade launcher, which can be used to fire non-lethal rounds such as flash bangs, are also included when things get particularly nasty. However, you will earn more points if you bring the suspect in alive. There are times when you have to make judgement calls but you will lose points for unauthorized use of deadly force. The suspects can be heavily armed with a variety of weapons including submachine guns.

Up to 10 players can take part in the co-op mode which can be played online or over LAN. It's really flexible. You can have all 10 players on one team or you can divide it up into two teams of any number of players as long as it doesn't exceed 10 players. Unfortunately there are some issues with online latency and slowdown when the action heats up. If you've got the bandwidth to handle the voiceover IP then you'll definitely want to take advantage of it since it makes communication so much easier, not to mention realistic.

The other multi-player mode is called Smash and Grab. It involves two opposing teams. One trying to locate a suitcase and smuggling it out of a building while the SWAT team tries to stop them. It's time limited and each kill that the SWAT team makes eats up more of the time. Conversely, the other team will buy time when they make kills. It's a fun mode but it really doesn't have much lasting power.

The game looks as good as SWAT 4 which is darn good. Some of the sound effects and musical cues are a little out of time but for less than twenty bucks all can be forgiven. If you're looking for a smart game that doesn't require the patience of Job or the genius of Einstein, but a little more intelligence than a monkey with his hand on his joystick, then SWAT 4 and The Stetchkov Syndicate expansion pack are definitely for you.

Features:

  • Seven new missions playable in single-player, multiplayer and co-op mode
  • 10-player co-op -- increased from five -- allows players to create a single "stick" of 10 or any combination up to 10 for coordinated and devastating insertion maneuvers
  • New SWAT equipment, including Night Vision Goggles, Light Sticks for cleared rooms, Ammo Pouch (This equipment will give the player 2 extra clips of ammunition for their primary weapon)
  • New weapons including SWAT- and Suspect-only submachine guns, stun guns, rifles, grenade launchers and pistols
  • New objective types, including preventing destruction of evidence and preventing suspects from escaping the scene
  • Held Commands, allowing players to hold movement of team groups until the "Initiate" command, helping coordinate synchronized actions across multiple groups
  • New MP mode -- Smash and Grab -- where Suspects must seize and escort a briefcase through a level while SWAT teams attempt to stop their escape
  • Server browser improvements including, Voice-Over-IP (VoIP) for built-in voice communication; GameSpy Stat Tracking for ladders and rankings; and Voting for map selection, choosing a leader, and kicking or banning players.

By Cole Smith
CCC Senior Writer

Rating out of 5
SWAT 4: The Stetchkov Syndicate (PC)
4.1
Graphics
It's a little too dark in places which is too light for the night vision goggles and too dark to make out all of the details in the environments. It looks identical to the original game.
4.6
Control
A multitude of weapons and gadgets are available to use for different situations. They are fun to use and offer lots of flexibility and gameplay variety.
3.5
Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Some of the audio cues do not trigger properly but it doesn't diminish the quality of the gameplay.
4.0
Play Value
The single-player mode only has seven missions. You'll get more replay value out of the multi-player modes.
4.4
Overall Rating - Great
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.
 
System: PC
Dev: Irrational Games
Pub: VU Games
Release: Feb 2006
Players: 1 - multi online
Review by Cole

Review Rating Legend
1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid
2.0 - 2.4 = Poor
2.5 - 2.9 = Average
3.0 - 3.4 = Fair
3.5 - 3.9 = Good
4.0 - 4.4 = Great
4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy
5.0 = The Best